My response to the recent U.S. Presidential election was void of emotion, bluntly lacking surprise. The alarm bells had been ringing for a while, throughout ten or more seasons of The Apprentice. Donald Trump’s callous comments and misogynist rants, as well as other events and clues in the media, did not make things look promising for my feminist allies in the U.S.A.
If his blatant racism and homophobia wasn’t bad enough, he also exhibits an abusive tactic known as gas lighting. In a brilliant article for Teen Vogue, journalist Lauren Duca explains “To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country.”
In a much-too-real example of the dangerous thinking that a person like Trump inspires, Duca has received misogynist online abuse following her recent appearance on Fox News, in an interview with Tucker Carlson. She delivered a heroic message despite a frustrating and humiliating exchange with Carlson, who tried to demean her for writing for Teen Vogue. “A woman can love Ariana Grande and her thigh-high boots and still discuss politics, and those things are not mutually exclusive.” Duca retaliated.
Watch it here – Tucker is actually appalling. http://crooksandliars.com/2016/12/teen-vogue-writer-lauren-duca-vs-tucker
Another hero to (re) emerge from election night is Dave Chappelle, because we definitely need a little comic relief after that. In an Election Night skit for Saturday Night Live, Chris Rock and Chappelle laugh heartily at their fellow comedians surprise as the votes are counted. Cecily Strong remarks sincerely, “Oh my god, I think America is racist.” Chappelle responds “Oh my God… You know I remember my great-grandfather told me something like that. He was, like, a slave or something.”
Watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbeatG_M4JE
I know Hillary Clinton was the lesser of two evils in this apocalyptic “three ring circus sideshow,” but if she had won the election we would have had this awkward “choice feminism” moment where we all poured champagne into a rose tinted glass. They’d probably even tell us to smile, and we’d toast this glorious occasion… A woman is President, cheer up Buttercup! But then, maybe we could have had a serious conversation about what feminism actually means.
I’m not fighting as a feminist for my ego or personal gain (only don’t call me pretty!) I’m fighting because I believe this will help all of us. The goal of equality is not achieved through individual choices which privilege some but leave others behind; it demands collective structural changes to a world that values some humans more than others. If we fight this battle together, we are more powerful than any of us are as individuals.
The misconception by well-meaning opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, and to Feminism as well, is the failure to understand this concept. It doesn’t hurt you (in any reasonable situation) to be an ally to someone’s struggle, whether this is racism, sexism, ableism, classism, or any other form of institutionalized discrimination. It doesn’t take anything away from you to recognize that someone else’s struggle is real, and you are not living in two separate realities. White culture has a troubling obsession to “not see colour” and to deny its racialized and gendered assumptions. But white is just another colour in the pigment box of flesh tones, just as there are “many colours in the homo rainbow.” Get over it, Honey.
I feel like we are spending way too much time defending the necessity to be feminists instead of just being feminists. We are defending our right to be women instead of just being women. It’s so exhausting.
Break time for another hero: this beer. Dump the Trump is a topical, assertively hoppy American IPA. It’s the perfect beer to drink when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I recommend pairing it with picnics and friends. Fortunately the only wall it’s building is “the wall of hops around your taste buds” so you can relax and spit some truth to your allies.
Which brings me to my last topic in this rant, “Emotional Labour”: Work that requires careful management and regulation of emotion to perform tasks, usually to result in a positive experience for someone else, and sometimes without pay. The concept was introduced by Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book The Managed Heart in which she describes the emotional labour work of flight attendants as being “nicer than natural”.
I have performed the act of “being nice” for most of my life. But, lately I have been examining how my use of positive energy can be exploited and how it is valued or not valued by society in the workplace and in the home. Not to mention, how it is tiring me out!
Women, it seems, are expected to be kind, caring, deferent, and to have empathy in situations where men may be entitled to lack these qualities completely. We saw it in the U.S. election; Clinton was expected to smile, to have dignity and remain calm throughout Trump’s display of arrogant misogynist shit. As women, we were expected to sympathise with her. Male arrogance is rewarded (with a Presidency nonetheless), while women are expected to grin and bear it? This is not a truth that I want to live.
There is a separate term for the skill set of “Emotional Intelligence”, a term which was only recently coined in 1990 and is quickly becoming recognised as a key skill in business leadership. Qualities such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy are now recognized as valuable in the domain of highly paid professionals.
We have been gas lighted to think that kindness and empathy are not valuable, that they are not strong qualities. How often do we hear the phrase “Nice guys finish last?” In the current system of emotional dictatorship, to show your feelings signifies weakness. In fact, being sensitive to your own emotions and the emotions of others is one of the most powerful weapons in the world. If we flip the bird to this caveman attitude, and show our real capacity as human beings for kindness and empathy, we could be living in a different reality.
You don’t need to be nice to Ivanka Trump (I’m not saying accost her on a plane – nobody is!) but choose your allies and think about your values. Lift up those who deserve it, and don’t waste your energy on those who don’t. Your choice is powerful, and when you don’t make choices only for yourself, “Every 1’s a Winner.”
I want a dyke for president. I want a person with aids for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to aids, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no airconditioning, a president who has stood on line at the clinic, at the dmv, at the welfare office, and has been unemployed and layed off and sexually harrassed and gaybashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth, someone who has eaten hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown: always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker, always a liar, always a thief and never caught.
– Zoe Leonard, 1992